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Freedom and Love and Raspberries Aren’t Free

Some say love is spelled T-I-M-E. I say it’s spelled R-A-S-P-B-E-R-R-I-E-S and it’s measured in mosquito bites and thornbush scratches.

It’s funny how they grow together- isn’t it? – the mosquitos and the berries, the stinging and the sweet, the bramble and the rose.

And picking that bucket of raspberries tonight- with mosquitoes buzzing and sweat dripping and thorns scratching and practically hyperventilating as I blew the pesky critters off my nose- reminded me of a fabled 50 year-old tale.

A tale without which there might not be me.

Once Upon A Time…

A fair maiden named Darlene met a strapping young man named Mitchell on the high school debate bus.  At once Mitchell knew he’d found his mate. It took the cheery, sunshine Darlene just a little longer.

Soon high school let out for the summer. And you know how the field looks different come summer.

Mitchell must have know too, about teenage summers and how other fellas work the fields. So one July day a lot like today, along came young Mitchell.

But Mitchell was wise. He wasn’t empty-handed when he came courting fair Darlene.

Oh no. Mitchell came bearing the crown jewel of summer treasures. For it, the smitten young man had endured fierce summer sun, fought many a thorn and nearly been borne by mosquitoes.

Mitchell was so taken with Darlene that those hours in the bramble seemed like seconds at the junior prom. Such was Mitchell’s love for the sunny and smiling Darlene.

The Cost of Love

So now, with the fields ripening fast in the middle of a Mukwonago summer, along came Mitchell, bearing the costliest of gifts for his princess Darlene.

When came the knock, Darlene opened the door. She saw Mitchell’s scratches and welts and his strong juice-stained, thorn-scratched hands.

Then those bright hazel eyes locked on the pail. Oh, that pail!- glistening on top, laden with the finest of July. 

And with just one look at the amethyst gems in that brimming-full pail, Mitchell and Darlene’s deal was sealed.

Mom and Dad have been married 48 years this July 17th.

Freedom and Love and Raspberries Aren’t Free

All that to say on this raspberry picking day after the Fourth of July, freedom’s not free. Our founders pledged their lives, their fortune and their sacred honor when they declared us free. Brave men and women give their lives to preserve our liberty. And it’s effortful, still, holding freedom up with virtuous, tolerant lives.

Our spiritual freedom came at a high cost too. The cost of one perfect life. For Jesus, in love, gave his life to redeem us. His blood-stained, nail-pieced hands bought us out of sin’s bramble. A high price was paid to bring us to him.

So no, love is not without cost and freedom’s not free.

But neither is a bucket of black raspberries.

You are not your own, you were bought at a price.

Therefore honor God with your bodies. 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

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8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

Not Mushy-Gushy

Others can tell the mushy-gushy marriage story. We don’t have that. Ours is much more a tenacious, cling-by-our-fingernails, cleave-by-grace sort of story.

This day last year marked 20 years of marriage. I condensed the first score in a post called, 3 Lessons for Incompatible Soul Mates. Number 1 was God gives us strong grace so we can share it. Lesson 2: Your real soul-mate is the one you’re married to. And Number 3: Incompatibility is not a deal breaker. It’s a grace-muscle maker.

So I won’t rehash more. Because this wedding anniversary is a milestone too. I’ve been Mrs. Wallace for as many years as I was not.

What’s changed in 21 years- besides those full cheeks and fringy brown bangs?

Easy. I rely way more now than then on God’s grace. Only by clinging to HIs strong forgiving, forbearing, speak-truth-and-keep-loving grace could we have possibly made it this far.  And we know this pleases God, because, after all, marriage is really all about that, about how Christ loves his church.

But there have been some quotes that have helped me get up and press on in the last 21 years since we two became one.

These are those: courage-making marriage quotations from those way wittier and wiser than I.

8 Favorite Marriage Quotes

  1. What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy? -Gary Thomas
  2. Marriage is the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…It is a test of the whole character and affects every action. -T.S. Eliot
  3.  Love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by the grace which both partners ask, and receive from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself. -C.S. Lewis
  4.  One of the best wedding gifts God gave you was a full-length mirror called your spouse.  Had there been a card attached, it would have said, “Here’s to helping you discover what you’re really like!” -Gary and Betsy Ricucci
  5.  The meaning of marriage is the display of the covenant-keeping love between Christ and his people. —John and Noël Piper
  6.  I have know many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible. – G. K. Chesterton 
  7. A good marriage is the union of two good forgivers. -Ruth Bell Graham
  8.  The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the Gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The Gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. – Tim Keller

Reflecting

The T.S. Eliot quote compares marriage to a great test. Well, we’ve failed a lot along the way. We’ve been irritable and downright discouraging to each other some days. There’s been anger and hurt. We still get tempted to lash out and to clam up, to let the sun go down on our anger and keep a record of wrongs and go our own way.

But love doesn’t do that and we love because God first loved us.  And God’s love is a tenacious and gracious, steadfast and covenant-keeping love and marriage was made to reflect the Gospel- the good news of God’s great love for flawed, sinful man. Jim knows my flaws the best and on, earth, he loves me most.

I’ve heard it said that to be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. 

So today I pray that our marriage is more and more a reflection- albeit a smudgy one some days- of just that sort of love.

May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and the steadfastness of Christ. 

2 Thessalonians 3:5

 

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Ki-Bum: Joy Doubled And Hearts Wrung

I would give anything to have Ki-Bum just one more night. I miss him so much.

Granted, that’s from Gabe and Gabe’s our emotional one. But we both wear our hearts on our sleeves, and we both sob uncontrolled sobs. We all miss Ki-Bum.

I  can’t think of a single unkind thing he did. Even when he broke his fishing line and I got so mad at him, he forgave me right away. Or when Dad beat him at Slapjack every single time and he still wanted to keep playing. Or like when I offered him soggy Swiss Chard for lunch on his third day and he turned to the boys and asked, “You like?” They shook their heads and Ki-Bum smiled at me, then shook his head too.

He wasn’t fluent in English, but Ki-Bum understood. When I was feeling some heat for how I was enticing the boys to do summer school work, I asked if his Mom gave rewards to help him study, Ki-Bum shook his head again. Then, with a twinkle in his eye, he said, “But I not study.”

Ki-Bum was humble too. Most afternoons we were home, like a model son, he’d settle with his math at the dining room table. And break to serenade us at the piano with Summer.

But, Mom, if you had brothers and cousins in WI would you want to still live in Korea?  Gabe wondered, when we’d caught our sobbing breaths.

How Much Love Can You Pack Into One Month?

Short answer: Way more than the 48.6 pounds of luggage- and Pringles and Nerd ropes and Nutella- Ki-Bum stuffed into his suitcase Friday. So much love his leaving hurts.

Long answer: So much that a passing glance at the rice (“bahp”) or Ramen (“Lah-myun”) in the cupboards and the chopsticks (“jeotgalak”) in the drawer chokes me up a bit. We all took a stab at our sticky rice and real Ramen-not soup- with those.

So much that the kings and pawns and a bishop and knight stand hallowed in state, days after the last checkmate. Series total: 18-2, Ki-Bum over Sam.

So much that Gabe won’t shoot HORSE or PIG with his friends because it reminds him too much of fun at the hoop with  Ki-Bum. It makes me too sad. 

That much love.

Joy Shared Is Joy Doubled

I’ve been so slow to learn this JOY lesson.  Still, I slip back into thinking I’ll be happier if I keep my happy little joys private and Leave well enough alone.Then, by grace, the other side of my mind steps up and replies, Remember, love seeks not its own. Joy shared isn’t halved, it’s doubled!

Seeing our daily lives through Ki-Bum’s new eyes proved it again. Joy shared is joy doubled. Ki-Bum helped us enjoy common things more: meals together and “family-sized” ice cream, straw bales and fishing and even flat tires.

In four weeks we played more Sequence and chess, more rummy and ping-pong and spoons, took more bike rides than in the whole year before. There was more just-for-fun plunking at the piano and more lingering around the dinner table with more home-cooked dishes and more meals with friends and cousins and uncles and aunts.

To be sure, there was also more junk food in the bedroom over three-handed wars, more midnight games of slapjack and more waking up at ten AM than ever before.

But I think we grew a little more kind and courteous last month too. Maybe a little more Korean?

Regardless, Ki-Bum brought out our best and smoothed out our worst.

Only Some Other Friend Can Bring Out

We miss Ki-Bum and we miss the joy we shared with him. But there’s one more thing I miss:

Ki-Bum brought out something in each of us that wasn’t expressed fully without him.  I miss what we were when he was with us.

C.S. Lewis writes about that in the “Friendship” chapter of The Four Loves. He describes how he missed his good friend Charles Williams, and the way Williams changed what we’d call ” the dynamics” of the group of friends called the  “Inklings.

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself” now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth,…They can then say, as the blessed souls say in Dante, “Here comes one who will augment our loves.” For in this love “to divide is not to take away.” *

That’s what happened last month. Ki-Bum brought out sides of Sam and Gabe sides- that only a big brother like Ki-Bum could bring out. Gabe plunking Summer, and Sam turned Chessmate. And fun sides of Jim I don’t see much, and I suppose more domestic sides of me.

Ki-Bum, to borrow from Lewis, “augmented our loves.” That’s the third reason our hearts were wrung.

Wrung

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, we say. We ventured, we gained. We opened our hearts and home, and- you’ve loved- you know what comes.C.S. Lewis again, from The Four Loves, 

There is no safe investment. To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket—safe, dark, motionless, airless—it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

“I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God’s will than a self-invited and self-protective lovelessness… We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him;…

If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it.

So be it. Ki-Bum was a hand-picked gift from God. Sure, the International 4H Exchange Team officially made the match, but God’s hand was in it. I wouldn’t have picked him on paper. But I’m so grateful we were matched.

When Ki-Bum’s profile came a month before we met, I remember what I thought. when I saw his age- 15 (16 Korean)- and thought, So much older than the boys. And when I saw his hobby list; shopping, comeputer [sic] games, webtoon, eating, listening music- Oh dear. I thought. A teenager who likes shopping and video games and webtoon- whatever that is. 

Oh, well- a month goes by fast.

Kamsahamnida- 감사합니다 -Thank you, Ki-Bum.

So fast. The days went slow but the month went fast. But I won’t let myself say, Too fast. God’s timing is perfect and our times are in His hands. But it’s so hard to sit loose, to keep open hands. But if our hearts need to be broken and He chooses this as the way in which they should break, so be it. 

So kamsahamnida,  Ki-Bum. Thank you. Thank you for leaving such a big hole in our hearts that we’re looking to only One who can fill it. Thank you for bringing out our best and doubling our joy as our son and brother and friend. Thank you for opening your kind, patient, courteous Korean heart to us wild Wallaces.

Kamsahamnida, Lord, for Ki-Bum.

So teach us to number our days  that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long? Have pity on your servants!
 Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.

Psalm 90:12-14

Remainder of *paragraph reads: “Of course the scarcity of kindred souls – not to mention practical considerations about the size of rooms and the audibility of voices – set limits to the enlargement of the circle; but within those limits we possess each friend not less but more as the number of those with whom we share him increases. In this, Friendship exhibits a glorious “nearness by resemblance” to Heaven itself where the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3) The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have.”

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3 Lessons For Incompatible Soul-Mates

We saw it coming. As much as a 21 year-old far-sighted new grad and a 32 year-old eye-doctor standing before the wedding altar can. Because every marriage starts sight unseen.

The wedding guests shook their heads. “They’ve met their match,” some said. The guests, the bride, the groom- all knew that sparks would fly as sure as love would grow. That the cakewalk would end the second we left the three tiers at the reception hall and entered the January cold.

No. We weren’t giddy. Weren’t head over heels. Our love was not blind.

Bound But Not Blind

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 2 Corinthians 6:8

We knew to keep our eyes wide open before the wedding and half shut afterward. But half shut’s not blind. Because, like GK Chesterton wrote, blind is the last thing love is.

Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind. And if we don’t love the unlovable it’s not really love at all.

We knew these truths. We could see that our love was not blind. We were quite aware of our different ways of seeing and doing and saying things.

Which is why we picked those those verses from 2 Corinthians 9 for our wedding text.

Pastor Berg asked us, Are you sure you want to use this? It’s really not a standard wedding text like 1 Corinthians 13. The context is actually grace to give money. Is that okay?

Oh, yeah. For sure. Because we two strong, determined types knew we’d need all grace, in all things, all the time to stay bound. Which is exactly why God gives this abundant grace. 

That’s lesson 1: God gives it, so we can give it. Because we all need it

And 20 years in we still need all God’s strong grace to make our marriage workEspecially when in the heat of the fight, we might be tempted to wonder, Did I make a mistake? 

Mistakes and Soul Mates

J.R.R. Tolkien was married for 55 years. Happily, from all accounts. He and Edith understood that real love means self-denial. That takes grace. And that in a certain way, most marriages are mistakes. He explains this in a letter he wrote to his son Michael.

Tolkien’s take on marital love is not sentimental. I think that’s why I like it so much. I’m not so sentimental.

If you take nothing else from this post, please take this:

The essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called “self-realization” (usually a nice name for self-indulgence…); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriages entails that: great mortification.

When the glamour wears off, or merely works a bit thin, they think that they have made a mistake, and that the real soul-mate is still to find. The real soul-mate too often proves to be the next sexually attractive person that comes along. Someone whom they might indeed very profitably have married, if only—. Hence divorce, to provide the ‘if only’.

And of course they are as a rule quite right: they did make a mistake. Only a very wise man at the end of his life could make a sound judgement concerning whom, amongst the total possible chances, he ought most profitably have married! Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might have found more suitable mates.

But the ‘real soul-mate’ is the one you are actually married to. In this fallen world, we have as our only guides, prudence, wisdom (rare in youth, too late in age), a clean heart, and fidelity of will…(Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, pp. 51-52)

That’s lesson 2: Your ‘real soul mate’ is the one you married. (Yes. Love the one you’re with.)

Jim and I both may possibly have found a more suitable mate. May have. But as for soul mates: he’s mine and I’m his.

The Unquestionably Incompatible on the Practice Court

G.K. Chesterton, also happily married, once wrote, I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when the incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such are incompatible. Hear, hear and three cheers for Chesterton.

Have you been there? Are you now? Wondering if you made a mistake? Feeling how unquestionably incompatible the two of you are? If you do, please take heart. 

Because we have and we do and, I suspect, we will still feel our incompatibility until death do us part. Twenty years in and I still can’t believe he thinks that. He can’t believe I said that.

That’s lesson 3: Incompatibility is not a marriage breaker. It’s a place-for-grace given. 

Thankfully, we have the perfect place to practice grace; a practice court for love. That’s what Gary Thomas, in my favorite Sacred Marriage book, calls Christian marriage. On that court what makes a win isn’t getting your way  and achieving your dreams.  No.

A deny yourself, serve your spouse, forgive first love wins. A robust holy love that has contempt on contempt and picks gratitude over entitlement scores points. It’s a holy love that knows faithfulness matters because marriage is meant to mirror God’s faithful love for his bride and her glad submission to him.

But, good night! Who knew how grueling hard this test would be. T.S. Eliot called it the greatest test in the world. It’s much more than a test of sweetness of temper…it is a test of the whole character and affects every action. We fail lots of tests and we miss a lot of shots. But we do keep fighting through when incompatibility flares

Which, incidentally, takes all grace. All God’s strong grace for grace to abound in our house. 

I won’t say I didn’t think we’d come this far. 

We knew God could make all grace abound. We thought we would. He give it so we can live it. But I will say we had no idea how hard living it would be. We’ve both had some high hopes smashed and big dreams dashed. Some shattered in the hands of the other.

So, yes, there has been hard. There have been sparks. But no matter, how hard and the sparks. Game still on. Because God gives more grace, strong grace to get us back up so we can give and forgive, bear and forbear, respect and submit. He does. God gives it, so we can live it, to the praise of his glorious grace. 

We’ve been working grace out as God works it in for the last 7300 days and it’s one score us, score one grace. And I admit it. I’m getting just a teensy bit sentimental when I see how far, by grace, we’ve come now.

So, yes, Dr. Jim, I do take you. For sure. You’re still the one.

The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. 

Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. 

2 Corinthians 9:6-8

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  1. That was great to read given our current situation. Thanks! Congratulations on your anniversary…

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  2. Thanks, Jackie. The way you and your beloved talk to each other and how he brings lunch and you listen so well is grace upon grace. You’re strong that way. I’ll pray for you to live your next chapter well. Luke 12:22-32

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